Make May a Time for a Healthier You

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For many women, May is a time to reflect not only on the newness of spring, but to also consider common health issues that they potentially could face. This month features three health observances that women should gain an understanding of so they can take an active role in their heath and change their lives.

Osteoporosis Awareness Month

Osteoporosis thins and weakens bones, making them so fragile you can break one just by lifting a bag of groceries or hugging a child. Often referred to as “brittle bones,” a bone with osteoporosis has large holes where it looks like pieces are missing. You may have no symptoms at all until it fractures. The most common fractures are the wrists, hips and vertebrae of the spine.

Bones are constantly undergoing a process of breakdown and rebuilding. Calcium is removed from its storage in the bones for use by the body and then returned to the bone for storage. This process is called remodeling. It renews bone tissue while providing essential minerals to the body.

What can you do to prevent osteoporosis?

  • Get the recommended daily amount of calcium from your diet or take calcium supplements.
  • Exercise at least 30 minutes a day, three to five times a week, doing weight-bearing exercises such as walking or lifting weights. Exercises such as swimming or bicycling do not put weight on the bones, so they do not improve bone strength.
  • Get enough vitamin D. Take a calcium supplement with vitamin D or get your daily dose from 15 minutes in the sun.
  • Avoid carbonated beverages, caffeine and nicotine, which interfere with the absorption of calcium.
  • Hold the salt, which deprives the body of calcium. The more salt you eat, the more calcium gets carried away in your urine.
  • Avoid excessive alcohol intake (more than three drinks a day).
  • Don’t take antacids that contain aluminum.
  • Consider taking estrogen after menopause.

Taking an active role in your health can lead to better outcomes. If you are concerned about osteoporosis, contact your physician to discuss screening options to find out if your bones are thinning.

Women’s Check-up Day (May 10)

Make an appointment! This day is dedicated to promoting regular check-ups and encouraging women to visit their doctors. Regular visits are vital for early detection of fibromyalgia, osteoporosis and many other health-related conditions.

For many medical problems, early treatment can help prevent more serious problems. The value and recommended frequency of check-ups depends on your age and sex. Your personal and family medical histories are also important.

Tips to get started:

  • Contact your doctor to schedule check-ups and screenings.
  • Follow up on your doctor-suggested screenings and tests.
  • Don’t be afraid to have anything that “doesn’t feel right” checked out. It could be something big.

Fibromyalgia Awareness Day (May 13)

Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition characterized by widespread pain in your muscles, ligaments and tendons, as well as fatigue and multiple tender points. It occurs in about 2 percent of the U.S. population, and as with osteoporosis, women are much more likely to develop the disorder than men.

Treatments including medication, education, physical therapy and counseling are usually recommended to help minimize the effects of fibromyalgia. Another option is aquatic therapy. Because of water’s properties — buoyancy, temperature and surface tension — immersion in warm water brings most fibromyalgia sufferers a sense of relaxation. In fact, it is often possible to perform vigorous exercises in water without the weight-bearing effects and joint compression experienced on land.

If you exhibit symptoms of fibromyalgia, contact your physician. Early detection is key to building a healthier you.

As women, we don’t often do what we should to take care of ourselves. We spend so much time caring for others that we short-change our own needs. But we need to think differently! May is the perfect opportunity to chart a new course on the road of good health for you.


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Tags: check-ups, Fibromyalgia Awareness Day, Hayes Green Beach Memorial Hospital, health, Maureen Sheppard, observations, Osteoporosis Awareness Month, treatments, women's check up day

Maureen Sheppard

Maureen Sheppard, RN, is the chief nursing officer for Hayes Green Beach Memorial Hospital, where she oversees a variety of clinical services. She has an affinity for women's health issues and encourages women to focus more on self-care.

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